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Vikings spread deadly SMALLPOX to Britain and around world

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vikings spread deadly smallpox to britain and around world

Viking raiders were responsible for spreading the deadly smallpox to Britain and around the globe, genetic information extracted from ancient teeth has revealed.

The teeth samples contained extinct strains of smallpox — different to the modern virus that was declared eradicated in 1980 — that dated back to the 7th Century.

The findings indicate that smallpox was widespread in northern Europe during that period — pushing back the disease’s first known case by some 1,000 years.

Smallpox is a viral infection that causes a fever, vomiting, headaches and a rash which turns into disfiguring sores and pustules that could leave permanent scars.

In around 30 per cent of cases, smallpox infection proved fatal. 

The international research team said that it is unclear if the ancient smallpox strains were as deadly — but that the Vikings likely helped the spread of the disease.

Knowing more about the evolutionary history of viruses such as smallpox, they added, may help in the battle against new and emerging infectious diseases.

Viking raiders were responsible for spreading the deadly smallpox to Britain and around the globe, genetic information extracted from ancient teeth has revealed. Pictured, a 1,200-year-old, smallpox-infected Viking skeleton unearthed from Öland, an island in the south of Sweden

Viking raiders were responsible for spreading the deadly smallpox to Britain and around the globe, genetic information extracted from ancient teeth has revealed. Pictured, a 1,200-year-old, smallpox-infected Viking skeleton unearthed from Öland, an island in the south of Sweden

Viking raiders were responsible for spreading the deadly smallpox to Britain and around the globe, genetic information extracted from ancient teeth has revealed. Pictured, a 1,200-year-old, smallpox-infected Viking skeleton unearthed from Öland, an island in the south of Sweden

‘Knowledge from the past can protect us in the present,’ said paper author and computational biologist Terry Jones of the University of Cambridge.

‘When an animal or plant goes extinct, it isn’t coming back. But mutations can re-occur or revert and viruses can mutate or spill over from the animal reservoir.’

‘So there will always be another zoonosis — a disease which can be transmitted to humans from animals,’ he explained.

Caused by the variola virus, smallpox was one of the most hostile human diseases, killing more than 300 million people in the 20th century alone.

This virus became the first human disease to be eradicated — with the last natural case reported in Somalia in 1977 — following an extensive global vaccination effort.

However, concerns remain that the virus could re-emergence, with the possibility of another strain spilling over from animals at any moment.

Scientists say that the exact origin and evolution of smallpox in humans remains a mystery — however, some virologists believe that the variola virus may have been first transmitted to humans from rodents thousands of years ago.

To find out more, Dr Jones and colleagues searched for evidence of ancient smallpox at various archaeological sites.

The teeth samples contained extinct strains of smallpox ¿ different to the modern virus that was declared eradicated in 1980 ¿ that dated back to the 7th Century. Among the specimens examined by Dr Jones and his colleagues were massacred 10th-century Vikings, pictured, found in a mass grave located within St John's College, Oxford

The teeth samples contained extinct strains of smallpox ¿ different to the modern virus that was declared eradicated in 1980 ¿ that dated back to the 7th Century. Among the specimens examined by Dr Jones and his colleagues were massacred 10th-century Vikings, pictured, found in a mass grave located within St John's College, Oxford

The teeth samples contained extinct strains of smallpox — different to the modern virus that was declared eradicated in 1980 — that dated back to the 7th Century. Among the specimens examined by Dr Jones and his colleagues were massacred 10th-century Vikings, pictured, found in a mass grave located within St John’s College, Oxford

The team found extinct strains of the variola virus in the skeletons of humans at 11 different burial sites — located in Denmark, Norway, Russia and the UK — and all from the Viking era.

More evidence of these viral strains was found in human remains from Öland, an island that lies off of the southeast coast of Sweden.

Analysis revealed that the genetic structures of the ancient smallpox strains were ‘remarkably’ different from their modern counterpart — suggesting the virus evolved, the researchers said. 

SMALLPOX: THE HISTORY OF THE KILLER VIRUS

  • The first known victim of smallpox was Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt, who died in 1157BC and whose mummy still bears the scars of the disease.
  • When the Spanish took it into Hispaniola – now Haiti and the Dominican Republic – which they settled for sugar cane plantation in 1509, it killed every one of the 2.5 million natives within a decade.
  • More than 200 years ago, physician Edward Jenner made a crucial-discovery which led to the first vaccine. He found that milkmaids who developed cowpox through working close to the animals day after day seemed to be protected from smallpox, the human form of the disease.
  • In Britain, the disease was endemic until 1935.
  • The last major outbreak in Europe was in 1972 when 20 million were vaccinated after a pilgrim returning to Yugoslavia from Mecca infected 175 people.
  • Doctors waged a vaccination campaign to wipe out smallpox which succeeded by the late 1970s.
  • All nations were asked to destroy stocks of the virus or hand them to high-security installations in the US or Russia. It is feared terrorists may have got supplies from Russia in the 1980s.
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The findings indicate that smallpox was widespread in northern Europe during that period ¿ pushing back the disease's first known case by some 1,000 years. Among the specimens examined by Dr Jones and his colleagues were massacred 10th-century Vikings, pictured, found in a mass grave located within St John's College, Oxford

The findings indicate that smallpox was widespread in northern Europe during that period ¿ pushing back the disease's first known case by some 1,000 years. Among the specimens examined by Dr Jones and his colleagues were massacred 10th-century Vikings, pictured, found in a mass grave located within St John's College, Oxford

The findings indicate that smallpox was widespread in northern Europe during that period — pushing back the disease’s first known case by some 1,000 years. Among the specimens examined by Dr Jones and his colleagues were massacred 10th-century Vikings, pictured, found in a mass grave located within St John’s College, Oxford

‘We discovered new strains of smallpox in the teeth of Viking skeletons and found their genetic structure is different to the modern smallpox virus eradicated in the 20th century, said paper author and St John’s, Cambridge zoologist Eske Willerslev.

‘We already knew Vikings were moving around Europe and beyond — and we now know they had smallpox.’

‘People travelling around the world quickly spread COVID-19 — and it is likely Vikings spread smallpox. Just back then, they travelled by ship rather than by plane.’

‘We don’t know for sure if these strains of smallpox were fatal and caused the death of the Vikings we sampled,’ added paper author and evolutionary historian Martin Sikora of the University of Copenhagen.

However, he added, these Vikings ‘certainly died with smallpox in their bloodstream for us to be able to detect it up to 1,400 years later.’

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Science.

THE VIKING AGE LASTED FROM AROUND 700–1,110 AD

The Viking age in European history was from about 700 to 1,100 AD.

During this period many Vikings left their homelands in Scandinavia and travelled by longboat to other countries, like Britain and Ireland.

When the people of Britain first saw the Viking longboats they came down to the shore to welcome them. 

However, the Vikings fought the local people, stealing from churches and burning buildings to the ground.

The people of Britain called the invaders ‘Danes’, but they came from Norway and Sweden as well as Denmark.

The name ‘Viking’ comes from a language called ‘Old Norse’ and means ‘a pirate raid’.

The first Viking raid recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was around 787 AD.

It was the start of a fierce struggle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings.

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Tougher coronavirus rules in Scotland put pressure on PM

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tougher coronavirus rules in scotland put pressure on pm

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all imposed restrictions on households meeting up indoors, prompting speculation that Boris Johnson will have to back down and follow suit in England. 

The Prime Minister yesterday set out a wave of measures designed to stop the spread of coronavirus

But he did not make any changes to rules around households mixing with each other as the existing ‘rule of six’ provision remained in place. 

However, the other three home nations have all moved on the issue and introduced tighter curbs. 

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has also told people in Scotland not to book overseas half-term breaks while Wales has restricted the sale of alcohol after 10pm.  

The fact that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken a tougher approach in some areas has prompted questions over whether Mr Johnson will now be forced to do the same. 

Below is a breakdown of how the rules are different in each country.  

Boris Johnson's coronavirus crackdown is facing scrutiny after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced even tougher restrictions

Boris Johnson's coronavirus crackdown is facing scrutiny after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced even tougher restrictions

Boris Johnson’s coronavirus crackdown is facing scrutiny after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced even tougher restrictions

England

Working from home is once again being encouraged, with anyone who can being asked to do so.

People who cannot, such as those working in construction or retail, are being advised they should continue to go to their workplaces.

From Thursday pubs, bars and restaurants must offer table service only and hospitality, leisure, entertainment and tourism businesses will all have to close between 10pm and 5am.

People working in retail, travelling in taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except while seated at a table to eat or drink, will have to wear face coverings.

From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, but the limit remains at 30 for funerals.

The rule of six, introduced last weekend, that any social gatherings of more than six people both indoors and outdoors are against the law, is being extended to all adult indoor team sports.

Large sporting events, business conferences and exhibitions will not reopen as had been planned from October 1.

The penalties for disobeying the rules will also be greater – failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will see fines doubling to £200 for a first offence.

Businesses which break the rules could be fined up to £10,000 and closed.

Fines of up to £10,000 for people who fail to self-isolate have already been announced.

Downing Street said military support was an option to free up police so they can focus on enforcing the tougher rules.

For people in the shielding category, Mr Johnson said the guidance remains that shielding is not currently needed, unless they are in a local lockdown area.

Nicola Sturgeon has urged people in Scotland not to book overseas travel during half term unless it is essential

Nicola Sturgeon has urged people in Scotland not to book overseas travel during half term unless it is essential

Nicola Sturgeon has urged people in Scotland not to book overseas travel during half term unless it is essential

Scotland

Household mixing indoors will no longer be allowed, with exemptions for those living alone, couples not living together, childcare and tradespeople.

Regulations come into force on Friday but people are being asked to comply from today.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said children under 12 will be exempt from the current limit of six people from two households when meeting outside, and those between 12 and 18 will be able to meet a limit of six others from six households outdoors.

From Friday pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and further resources will be given to environmental health officials to step up enforcement and inspections, to check that social distancing and other hygiene guidance is being adhered to.

People in Scotland are also being advised against car-sharing, with Ms Sturgeon saying that according to Test and Protect data there is a ‘significant risk of transmission’ in such settings.

She said no decision has been taken yet on a so-called circuit-break in October, and the Scottish Government is ‘keeping it under review’.

She asked people not to book any overseas travel for the half-term break unless it is essential, and to use it as an opportunity to ‘further limit social interaction’.

She said people who were shielding earlier in the year are not at this stage being asked to do so again, but that they should follow the steps outlined for the general population.

In an address to the nation, the First Minister acknowledged the measures might feel like ‘a step backwards’, but added: ‘We know what we need to do to protect ourselves and others – and all of us have a part to play.’ 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that only six people are now able to meet indoors and they must be part of a single extended household

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that only six people are now able to meet indoors and they must be part of a single extended household

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that only six people are now able to meet indoors and they must be part of a single extended household

Wales

Pubs, cafes, restaurants and casinos in Wales must operate as table service only and close from 10pm on Thursday.

Off-licences including supermarkets will also be stopped from selling alcohol at the same time each day as part of the measures.

Only six people are now able to meet indoors and must be part of a single extended household.

Face coverings must be worn on public transport, in shops and in enclosed public spaces across Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said in a televised address: ‘Families have lost loved ones. People have lost jobs and livelihoods. This is a highly infectious virus.

‘We cannot let it take a hold of our lives again. We have come too far to let that happen.’ 

The First Minister of Wales has also asked people to ‘think every time they make a journey’ and avoid unnecessary travel. 

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate across the UK and Ireland, and fresh Covid-19 restrictions are to be extended from some specific postcodes to the whole country from 6pm on Tuesday.

Households will no longer be allowed to mix indoors, except for single-person bubbles and certain other exemptions.

No more than six people from two households can meet in a garden.

Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster said a spike in coronavirus cases was a 'wake up call' and a 'reminder that we are not out of the woods'

Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster said a spike in coronavirus cases was a 'wake up call' and a 'reminder that we are not out of the woods'

Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster said a spike in coronavirus cases was a ‘wake up call’ and a ‘reminder that we are not out of the woods’

Pubs which do not serve food, known as wet pubs, are due to open on Wednesday, despite the latest restrictions.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said whether to introduce an early closing time for pubs is something ministers would be considering, describing replicating the 10pm curfew being introduced in England as ‘fair enough’ to consider.

First Minister Arlene Foster said a two-week period of lockdown to try to halt the spread of the virus, a so-called circuit breaker, could not be ruled out.

Discussing the latest measures on Tuesday evening, she said: ‘We need to act, but I do want to reassure you that despite all of the headlines this is not a second lockdown.

‘This is a wake-up call, a reminder that we are not out of the woods.’ 

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Listed status for former Cambridge home of labourer David Parr

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listed status for former cambridge home of labourer david parr

The home and workshop of a working-class Victorian labourer who decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge has been given Grade II listed status.

David Parr bought his two-bedroom terraced home at 186 Gwydir Street in the city in 1886 and worked on it tirelessly until his death in 1927.

His descendants lived in the house until 2013, preserving it like a time capsule, and it has since been turned into a visitor attraction showcasing his craft.

Behind the door of this unassuming house is an extraordinary artistic masterpiece which can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience via the socially-distanced audio tours

Behind the door of this unassuming house is an extraordinary artistic masterpiece which can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience via the socially-distanced audio tours

Behind the door of this unassuming house is an extraordinary artistic masterpiece which can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience via the socially-distanced audio tours

Inside the home of David Parr:  The working-class Victorian labourer created a work of art on walls and ceilings with all-over patterns adapted from schemes he painted for his employer

Inside the home of David Parr:  The working-class Victorian labourer created a work of art on walls and ceilings with all-over patterns adapted from schemes he painted for his employer

Inside the home of David Parr:  The working-class Victorian labourer created a work of art on walls and ceilings with all-over patterns adapted from schemes he painted for his employer

David Parr worked tirelessly on his two-bedroom terraced home at 186 Gwydir Street in Cambridge from 1886 until his death in 1927

David Parr worked tirelessly on his two-bedroom terraced home at 186 Gwydir Street in Cambridge from 1886 until his death in 1927

David Parr worked tirelessly on his two-bedroom terraced home at 186 Gwydir Street in Cambridge from 1886 until his death in 1927

It appears in passing to be an ordinary mid-Victorian worker’s terraced house, but inside Parr created a work of art, with its walls and ceilings covered in intricate patterns adapted from schemes he painted for his employer.

Parr was employed by the nationally renowned firm of artistic workmen FR Leach & Sons, which had its showroom at 3 St Mary’s Passage in Cambridge.

The two properties have been listed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

The intricate details on the ceilings and walls are a true work of art which can be marvelled at by people through audio tours

The intricate details on the ceilings and walls are a true work of art which can be marvelled at by people through audio tours

The intricate details on the ceilings and walls are a true work of art which can be marvelled at by people through audio tours

The house has been meticulously crafted and designed both inside and out and is now open to the public and operating socially-distanced audio tours as The David Parr House

The house has been meticulously crafted and designed both inside and out and is now open to the public and operating socially-distanced audio tours as The David Parr House

The house has been meticulously crafted and designed both inside and out and is now open to the public and operating socially-distanced audio tours as The David Parr House

Arts and Crafts: From industrial-era chaos to beauty in the everyday 

The Arts and Crafts movement took off in the second half of the 19th century to elevate the way society viewed design and manufacture.

It was born out of the damaging effects of industrialisation and the lack of appreciation of the decorative arts.

In order to develop products in a less dehumanising way, designers started to adopt new principles to the manufacturing of objects.

William Morris was seen as the the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, who by the 1880s became internationally renowned as a successful designer and manufacturer.

He believed in the importance of creating beautiful objects that could be used in daily life.

His belief was that makers must remain connected to their product and other people.

The Arts and Crafts movement was also influenced by the work of Gothic revivalist Augustus Pugin (1812–1852).

The interior designer and architect helped challenge the mid-Victorian fashion for ornamentation.

Like Morris, he focused on the medieval period as a template for good design and good living.

Other key influencers were George Bodley, the Gothic Revival architect and Charles Kempe, the stained-glass artist.

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His home, now open to the public and operating socially-distanced audio tours as The David Parr House, has been listed at Grade II*, while his employer’s former showroom has been listed at Grade II.

Tony Calladine, regional director for Historic England in the East of England, said: ‘The listing of David Parr House and 3 St Mary’s Passage gives due recognition to the unknown highly talented artists and craftsmen who brought to life the creative inspiration of celebrated designers.

‘In supporting David Parr House to create a digital tour, we hope this extraordinary artistic masterpiece will be enjoyed by a much wider audience.’

Historic England awarded a Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund Resilience Grant of more than £40,000 to enable David Parr House to offer the pre-bookable digital tours.

Tamsin Wimhurst, chairwoman of trustees of David Parr House, said: ‘This is wonderful recognition for all the hard work shown by everyone who helped to save and conserve the David Parr House.

‘It highlights the importance of having spaces where we can celebrate ordinary working people, the beauty of making and the comfort of home.’

Parr, who together with his wife Mary Jane raised their three children Mary, David and Sarah at their house, kept a notebook in which he recorded the transformation of the house.

Alongside the painted decoration, items of joinery designed and built by Parr also survive, alongside the original curtain rails, the late 19th century toilet and the 1920s oven, which provide an almost complete picture of a house of this period.

The recent conservation of the house, which was based on detailed research and carried out with scrupulous care, has ensured its ongoing preservation.

The house is described by Historic England as a ‘physical embodiment of the renaissance of crafts encouraged by the Gothic Revival and, later, the Arts and Crafts movement’.

FR Leach & Sons, whose former showroom has been listed, received the keys to 3 St Mary’s Passage in 1880.

The company worked in partnership with some of the country’s best-known designers and architects, notably William Morris, father of the Arts and Crafts movement; George Bodley, the Gothic Revival architect; and Charles Kempe, the stained-glass artist.

It faced financial difficulties during the First World War and the company was placed into liquidation in 1916.

The building was acquired by King’s College Cambridge in 1936 and it currently operates as a shop.

The working-class Victorian labourer decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and spent decades designing his own with scrupulous care

The working-class Victorian labourer decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and spent decades designing his own with scrupulous care

The working-class Victorian labourer decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and spent decades designing his own with scrupulous care

A fireplace in St Mary's Passage, Camrbridge, the workshop of David Parr, the Vcitorian designer and decorator who transformed the mansions of the wealthy

A fireplace in St Mary's Passage, Camrbridge, the workshop of David Parr, the Vcitorian designer and decorator who transformed the mansions of the wealthy

A fireplace in St Mary’s Passage, Camrbridge, the workshop of David Parr, the Vcitorian designer and decorator who transformed the mansions of the wealthy 

David Parr: Victorian decorator paid a pittance to transform the interiors of lavish mansions he could but only dream of living in 

David Parr (pictured) decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and used his expertise and knowledge to decorate his own home with minute detail

David Parr (pictured) decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and used his expertise and knowledge to decorate his own home with minute detail

David Parr (pictured) decorated houses and colleges around Cambridge and used his expertise and knowledge to decorate his own home with minute detail

David Parr was a working-class Victorian decorator in Cambridge who took his work home with him – and created a masterpiece of his own to live in.

Decorators of that era were often paid a pittance to design and decorate interiors and exteriors of private mansions of the rich and famous and Cambridge colleges.

After completing his day job, Parr would return to his humble two-bedroom terraced house and work tirelessly into the night by candlelight to decorate it.

It took him 40 years to painstakingly decorate the walls and ceilings with scrupulous detail.

He turned his own home into a masterpiece with all the craftmanship and artistry he had acquired through his employment.

Parr kept a notebook in which he meticulously wrote down the cost of materials, how long it took him to complete each task and how much it would have cost in labour.

According to the notebook some jobs took him as much as 85 hours and others more than 30 years.

He was a great fan of Morris’s patterns and used some of them to design his own home. 

The Cambridge house was bought by Parr in 1886 and he didn’t stop working on it until his death in 1927.   

His granddaughter Elsie Palmer lived at the house for 85 years soon after his death and left it largely unchanged.

 

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Covid-19 restrictions could mean elderly in care homes have no visitors for a YEAR, Age UK warns

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covid 19 restrictions could mean elderly in care homes have no visitors for a year age uk warns

Covid-19 restrictions on care homes could mean the elderly don’t see their family for a year, a leading charity has warned. 

Age UK is worried about the powers given to local health bosses to impose blanket bans on visits, a move to prevent Britain’s most vulnerable residents catching the coronavirus

Although virus control is important, the charity said visiting restrictions undermine the danger of lack of social contact with loved ones.

It warned a number of care home residents have already died prematurely because they ‘have gone downhill fast’ as a result of being cut off from their loved ones. Experts have previously warned isolation can lead to the deterioration of conditions such as dementia.

Age UK’s warning came after Boris Johnson yesterday announced new restrictions in England in response to rising numbers of coronavirus cases.

He said if the situation does not improve, the measures could last for more than six months to March — a year after the initial lockdown when care homes first shut their doors.  

Most care homes in the UK were given the green light to open again in the summer, after the outbreak was restrained. 

But since infection rates have gone up again, many are not risking the virus entering and wreaking havoc like it did in March and April, and have reintroduced visiting bans to the dismay of families. 

Covid-19 restrictions on care homes could mean the elderly don't see their family for a year, Age UK has warned (stock)

Covid-19 restrictions on care homes could mean the elderly don't see their family for a year, Age UK has warned (stock)

Covid-19 restrictions on care homes could mean the elderly don’t see their family for a year, Age UK has warned (stock)

Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, told The Telegraph restrictions could leave elderly care home residents alone for a year.

She said: ‘Given where we are now with Covid-19, we worry that more and more care homes will now shut their doors to visitors, either off their own bat or because their local director of public health instructs them to do so.

‘It is crucial that we protect care home residents from the risk of infection, but that’s only one of the two enormous risks that have to be managed here. 

CARE HOMES HAVING TO WAIT 15 DAYS FOR COVID TEST RESULTS  

Care homes are having to wait up to 15 days for Covid test results, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Managers say the system is so ‘shambolic’ they fear further fatal outbreaks.

With Health Secretary Matt Hancock warning that a virus ‘tipping point’ is approaching, the care bosses demanded a much quicker turnaround.

The Mail spoke to 19 providers which together run 393 homes. Staff or residents tested positive at a third of the chains over the past fortnight and in most cases results came late.

Nine said they had to throw away tests after couriers did not turn up on time. One had to ditch 250 swabs in a week.

Homes need quick results if they are to halt an outbreak.

Several providers had to wait as long as 15 days and in some cases heard nothing back from laboratories. Results should be processed within 24 hours but the supposedly ‘world- beating’ system has been overwhelmed.

Nadra Ahmed, who is executive chairman of the National Care Association, said the testing chaos was ‘one of the Government’s greatest failings’.

She added: ‘I can’t believe they didn’t envisage that there would be an increase in demand for tests and results in a timely manner as lockdown was eased.

‘We can’t deal with a postcode lottery at this critical time. As it stands, it is utterly chaotic, shambolic and a disgrace.’

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‘The other is the risk of undermining older people’s mental and physical health by cutting them off from those they love for a long time.

‘There is ample evidence from the pandemic to date that, in these circumstances, many care home residents have gone downhill fast and a number have died prematurely without ever seeing their families and friends again.’

Under the social care winter plan, which came out last week, local directors of public health were given the authority to close care homes if the spread of coronavirus is rising in the community.  

Ms Abrahams said: ‘We are firmly of the view that there is no place for blanket bans when it comes to care home visiting.

‘Getting the balance right between infection control on the one hand and protecting residents’ mental and physical health on the other is challenging, but some care homes are showing that it really can be done.’

Already, hundreds of large care home operators in England have taken extra steps to protect their residents just a couple of months after they were given the go-ahead to reopen at the end of July, when cases of Covid-19 in the UK were at record lows. 

Wales allowed visits from late August, and Scotland and Northern Ireland from early July.

Some care homes had to shut to visitors in line with local lockdowns ordered by the Government.

Parts of North West England, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Leicester, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently under tighter Covid-19 rules.

The aim is to avoid families bringing the coronavirus into the home and reaching the most vulnerable people of society. The elderly are far more likely to die of the coronavirus if they catch it. 

Already 15,000 people have died of confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in care home in England and Wales, figures collected by the Office for National Statistics show. And at least 10,000 more died unexpectedly from other causes.

Care UK and HC One, two of the largest national operators, have already closed dozens of homes to visitors, having re-opened them over the summer.   

Care homes were shut for at least four months during lockdown, which is feared to have already had a huge impact on elderly residents.

The lack of social contact caused dementia patients’ health to rapidly deteriorate as they felt confused, isolated and abandoned. 

But with a long winter ahead, and a toughening of Covid-19 restrictions announced by the Prime Minister yesterday, things don’t look set to improve. 

Last week the government announced its Adult Social Care Winter Plan to curb the spread of the coronavirus in care settings.

It came after calls for a clear plan to be laid out for winter following the shambolic handling of the care home crisis in the ‘first wave’ of the pandemic.

The plan included free PPE for care home staff and a £546million Infection Control Fund. 

But charities poked holes in the plans, with the Alzheimer’s Society requesting for free PPE to also be given to relatives so they can visit the elderly.

A statement from the charity said: ‘With care homes across the country once again closing their doors, we must make sure people with dementia are not cut off from vital visits from their loved ones. 

‘We’re urging the Government to prioritise providing PPE and repeated, regular testing for both care home staff and for family carers. 

‘Where this isn’t possible, steps must be put in place to ensure regular contact can continue between residents and their loved ones.’

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR CARE HOMES? A TIMELINE OF FAILINGS

FEBRUARY – SAGE scientists warned Government ‘very early on’ about the risk to care homes

Britain’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, revealed in April that he and other senior scientists warned politicians ‘very early on’ about the risk COVID-19 posed to care homes.   

He said: ‘So very early on we looked at a number of topics, we looked at nosocomial infection very early on, that’s the spread in hospitals, and we flagged that as something that the NHS needed to think about. 

‘We flagged the fact that we thought care homes would be an important area to look at, and we flagged things like vaccine development and so on. So we try to take a longer term view of things as well as dealing with the urgent and immediate areas.’

The SAGE committee  met for the first time on January 22, suggesting ‘very early on’ in its discussions was likely the end of January or the beginning of February. 

MARCH – Hospital patients discharged to homes without tests

In March and April at least 25,000 people were discharged from NHS hospitals into care homes without getting tested for coronavirus, a report by the National Audit Office found.

This move came at the peak of the outbreak and has been blamed for ‘seeding’ Covid-19 outbreaks in the homes which later became impossible to control.

NHS England issued an order to its hospitals to free up as many beds as they could, and later sent out joint guidance with the Department of Health saying that patients did not need to be tested beforehand. 

Chair of the public accounts committee and a Labour MP in London, Meg Hillier, said: ‘Residents and staff were an afterthought yet again: out of sight and out of mind, with devastating consequences.’ 

MARCH – Public Health England advice still did not raise alarm about care home risk and allowed visits

An early key error in the handling of the crisis, social care consultant Melanie Henwood told the Mail on Sunday, was advice issued by Public Health England (PHE) on February 25 that it remained ‘very unlikely’ people in care homes would become infected as there was ‘currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the UK’.

Yet a fortnight earlier the UK Government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling committee had concluded: ‘It is a realistic probability that there is already sustained transmission in the UK, or that it will become established in the coming weeks.’

On March 13, PHE advice for care homes changed ‘asking no one to visit who has suspected Covid-19 or is generally unwell’ – but visits were still allowed.

Three days later, Mr Johnson said: ‘Absolutely, we don’t want to see people unnecessarily visiting care homes.’

MARCH/APRIL – Testing not readily available to care home residents

In March and April coronavirus swab tests – to see who currently has the disease – were rationed and not available to all care home residents suspected of having Covid-19.

Government policy dictated that a sample of residents would be tested if one showed symptoms, then an outbreak would be declared and anyone else with symptoms presumed to be infected without a test.

The Department of Health has been in control of who gets Covid-19 tests and when, based on UK testing capacity. 

MARCH/APRIL – Bosses warned homes didn’t have enough PPE 

Care home bosses were furious in March and April – now known to have been the peak of the UK’s epidemic – that their staff didn’t have enough access to personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and aprons.

A letter sent from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) to the Department of Health saw the care chiefs accuse a senior figure at the Department of overseeing a ‘shambolic response’. 

Adass said it was facing ‘confusion’ and additional work as a result of mixed messaging put out by the Government.

It said the situation around PPE, which was by then mandatory for all healthcare workers, was ‘shambolic’ and that deliveries had been ‘paltry’ or ‘haphazard’.

A shortage of PPE has been a consistent issue from staff in care homes since the pandemic began, and the union Unison revealed at the beginning of May that it had already received 3,600 reports about inadequate access to PPE from workers in the sector.

APRIL – Care home deaths left out of official fatality count

The Department of Health refused to include people who had died outside of hospitals in its official daily death count until April 29, three weeks after deaths had peaked in the UK. 

It started to include the ‘all settings’ measure from that date and added on 3,811 previously uncounted Covid-19 deaths on the first day.

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